By Peter J. Smith
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Missouri, September 18, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Another Catholic bishop has stated that too many aspects of President Barack Obama's health care reforms violate basic and necessary Catholic social principles, such as respect for human dignity, safeguarding human life, conscience protection, and the principle of "subsidiarity."
"Health care reform is a very complex issue, with many important peripheral issues, such as cost and how to pay for it, economic impact, the role of the federal government, abortion, euthanasia, tort reform, etc.," writes Bishop James Vann Johnston of Cape-Girardeau and Springfield, Missouri. "But as such, health care reform is particularly important in that, as Catholics, we understand the principles that should be at the very heart of this delicate work."
Johnston says that of all the ways "to skin the health-care cat," President Obama's proposed reform raises serious and troubling questions for Catholics, such that the bishop says he cannot in good conscience support it.
"To begin, one must recognize that the provision of health care is rooted in our recognition of the basic dignity of every human person, made in God's image. Individuals and society both have inherent obligations to protect, respect, and promote the human person and his/her good."
Johnston goes on to observe that the Catholic Church has been involved in health-care since the first century A.D. following the example of the Good Samaritan, and that "one out of six hospital beds in the US today is in a Catholic hospital." However, he says, health-care reform needs to take into account respect for human dignity, safeguarding human life, and conscience protection.
Johnston points out that a recent and disturbing incident of conscience violations illustrates "how real is the threat of federal power to coerce health care providers, employers, and individuals into participating in actions contrary to conscience and Catholic teaching." Johnston is referring to the Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which "took action against Belmont Abbey College, a small Catholic college in North Carolina, for removing coverage for abortion, contraception, and voluntary sterilization from their employee insurance plan after they were inadvertently included."
Guaranteeing the basic principle of "subsidiarity" is also essential to health-care reform, writes the bishop. That means delivering health-care to a patient through social channels most proximate to his situation, ensuring his basic rights and fundamental dignity are respected, providing him the treatments and loving care that he needs, and protecting him from a centralized bureaucracy that does not care for him. "One might consider this the principle of social dignity," says Johnston.
Johnston quotes the Catholic Catechism to emphasize that subsidiarity is "opposed to all forms of collectivism" and "sets limits for state intervention." He explains, however, that "the higher order" of central government does have a role in health-care reform; but it must only play a very limited and supporting role, not a dominant one, so as not to run the risk of crushing all the other necessary functions and expressions of society and trampling on the individual.
"Government may also be needed to see that no one, especially the working poor and the most destitute and forgotten, falls through the cracks," writes Johnston. "But, the essential element of the principle of subsidiarity is the protection of individual freedoms from unjust micromanagement and manipulation by the state."
In conclusion, the bishop states that he can not support President Obama's reforms, because the proposed plans for restricting the way health-care is delivered violate these fundamental Catholic principles.
"May all those engaged in this issue craft a plan that provides universal health care that is affordable to all, distributes costs equitably, and above all, safeguards human life from conception to natural death and the freedom of conscience," writes Johnston in conclusion. "We must never forget as then-Card. Ratzinger stated, 'There is only one morality à, the morality of God's commandments, which cannot be temporarily suspended in order to bring about a change in the status quo more quickly.'"
See Bishop James Vann Johnston's Letter "Skinning the 'Health Care Cat'"
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